Autonomous bin picking for machine tending

| Manufacturing

ActiNav robot makes random bin picking accessible to small facilities

The ActiNav bin picking kit enables collaborative robotic machine tending using unstructured parts containers.

ActiNav from Universal Robots (UR) is a new UR+ application kit for companies of all sizes that simplifies the integration of autonomous bin picking of parts and accurate placement in machines using UR cobots. ActiNav synchronously handles vision processing, collision-free motion planning and autonomous real-time robot control, eliminating the complexity and risk usually associated with bin picking applications.

The complexity of automated bin picking is well-known throughout the industry, requiring huge efforts in both integration and programming. Today, most bin picking products are solely focused on the vision aspects and often require hundreds of lines of additional programming to bridge the gap from “pick” to “place” – especially if the “place” is not just dropping into a box but accurately inserting the part into a fixture for further processing. ActiNav Autonomous Bin Picking changes all that, allowing manufacturers with limited or no bin picking deployment expertise to quickly achieve high machine uptime and accurate part placement with few operator interventions.

ActiNav combines real-time autonomous motion control, collaborative robotics, vision and sensor systems in one easy to use, fast to deploy and cost-effective kit. The system requires no vision or robotic programming expertise, but is instead based on a “teach-by-demonstration” principle using a six-step, wizard-guided setup process integrated into the UR cobot teach pendant.

“Machine tending has always been one of the mainstay applications for our collaborative robot arms,” says VP of Product and Applications Management at Universal Robots, Jim Lawton. “We discovered a significant market need for a simple product that enables UR cobots to autonomously locate and pick parts out of deep bins and place them precisely into a machine. This is not pick and drop; this is accurate pick and part-oriented placement.”

While there is a variety of approaches to automating machine tending stations, many of which include implementing trays, bowl feeders or conveyors to get the parts to the machine, Lawton explains how ActiNav bypasses this step. “Parts are often already in bins, so the most flexible and scalable option is to deliver that bin of parts to the machine and then pick them directly from the bin and place them into the machine,” he says. “This minimises floor space and reduces the need for part-specific tooling.”

ActiNav autonomously inserts parts into CNC or processing machines such as drilling, deburring, welding, trimming or tapping. The high-resolution 3D sensor and CAD matching enables high-accuracy picks powered by ActiNav’s Autonomous Motion Module (AMM) that determines how to pick the part, then controls the robot to pick the part and place it in a fixture each time. The autonomous motion control enables ActiNav to operate inside deep bins that hold more parts; something that standalone bin picking vision systems struggle to accomplish.

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